Untitled Film Stills #15

Untitled Film Stills #15 (1978) is an image of a women looking extremely glamorous with her hair tied up in a ponytail, looking very smart-casual showing a little cleavage. The women is wearing a low cut T-Shirt and a very short skirt or pair of shorts and black heels, whilst sitting on the side of her window looking outwords.  This photograph is paticularly confusing in the sense that its complexity arises from its complete uncertainty about what the image is actually about. I feel like the purpose of this is to let us, the viewers guess what’s going on in the image. We can not identify if there is a narrative/story behind this image because we are not provided with enough information. This leads us to question of what she is looking at or waiting for for example her lover? A taxi or is she just looking out the window to get a glimpse of the city streets from her urban apartment. This ambiguity makes the image more powerful and memorable and the mise-en-scene does not help to convey a message or tone to the image either which makes us quite curious.

This way we can construct our own stories, the image is a pool of self-discovery and personal expression.  It allows us to explore the image through our backgrounds, experiences and attitudes; rather than telling us anything about the image itself, telling us a lot about how we view the world.

We are lead to focus on the minor details to reveal more possibilities for the narrative. For example the pendant with a cross (that Sherman is wearing) or the chair and the brick wall seem to conflict directly with her youth the contemporary aspects that her clothing and possible lifestyle suggest. By including this subtly, Sherman argues that to remove any of these small things would change the story alltogether. Through this Sherman brilliantly reveals the complex ways in which meaning is created through photographs. This allows the viewer to create a story about the image that fits what they would like it to be. She does this to explore stereotypes of femininity and representation found in popular culture. The image allows us to create our own characters for its narrative, for example the damsel in distress. Although as I said before the image accommodates all possible stories, backgrounds, and life experiences.

The photograph depicts the girl as tough with a heart of gold. This is quite different to the media’s images as the women is depicted as the opposite. Therefore the image may require a sense of realism to sell an illusion and make it “believable”. Sherman Stills use excentric props and unusual camera angles.

I think in terms of Gender stereotypes (Gender politics) Sherman has been very clever as this time the image shows quite a confident and beautiful looking women which is a positive representation of women (rather than showing them as vulnerable etc), although it could still be used in a scopophilic (the love of looking) way by men. I feel like one of the purposes of her art is to show how women where represented but in the process shows her disconetent with the female being representational of male desire which projects their anxieties rather than empowering them and in some ways Sherman is an accomplice in her own objectification because she bounds the female within a frame. Although in this example Cindy Sherman shows women in a positive way that empowers them. The subject of her work is from an objective view and this is also the way in which she shoots her photographs. The angles it is taken in is quite empowering which shows e.g. strength and superiority. This image empowers women in the sense that she looks free, confident and beautiful and is looking out of the window which could be understood in many different ways. For example the image could be seen as empowering as she may be looking out of the windows thinking of all the opportunities she has in life, although every individual will analyse the image in a different way. With relation to the Public Sphere the photographs portray women out of the domestic public sphere, distant from traditional female roles such as mothers and wives. Sherman’s photographs are representational and meant to signify to viewers her feminist concerns. Sherman explores and asks her viewers to explore, inhibitions about their own bodies and their own conceptions about sexual images.


Unititled Film Stills #6

Unititled Film Stills 6 is a black and white image of a women wearing a bra and knickers, posing and looking quite sexy on a bed. The image shows a representation of the objectification of women and also shows how they are used as sex symbol. This relates to Gender Politics and the Public Sphere in the sense that I feel like the purpose is also to allow us to comment on contemporary society which is a mass-media code/technique of representation. I also think it is to in some ways challenge/reinforce traditional gender distinctions. Gender roles are often based on cultural stereotypes which we see as the norm. We also do the same in modern society as we contruct our own ideas about what men and women should look like and how they should behave. This image relates to this in terms of gender as its almost like women are doing this for men (if linking back to Mulvey) purely for them to gaze at. In contrast art usually depicts men as powerful in contrast women are depicted as passive and eroticized (stereotypical representations). Although not all art shows this, some art shows men as vulnerable and women in positions of power.

Sexual objectification links to this image in paticular because she is not wearing much clothing, one purpose of this could be used as an object of desire relating to the male gaze. The male gaze is when a man stares at a an image of a women (showing her naked body in this example) for their own pleasure. Laura Mulvey’s theory has two distinct modes of the male gaze; veyeuristic and fetishistic.  I think that in this case it can be both but mostly voyeurism which is the love of looking (although men can have fetish’s about womens bodies). In this the women is passive and the male emerges as dominant and the one with power which says a lot about women in terms of patriachal order as the male gaze is seen as more important than the female gaze which also shows how women lack in power in this sense. The public sphere also plays a part in this as Sherman explore womens public persona’s, her work also emphasizes the public through presentation of women as socially constructed by a society dominated by men. Sherman constantly reveals a “characters”/women’s public life eventually eradicating the sense of self. Another important point is that in Sherman’s photo’s cannot be recognized suggesting a core of self that resists eradication which renews itself in the course of its struggle for representation.

What caught my eye more about this image was the characters vulnerability. She exposes her torso as well as this the way she places her hand under cheek and has a blank gaze (not looking at the camera) on the sheets of her bed which leads to many questions. Why is she naked? Who could be with her? And where he is (her husband/boyfriend etc). Also it looks like she is daydreaming which led me to think about who she is thinking about or what is on her mind, as well as various other question (because each viewer relates to her and will think about the image in a different way).

Cindy Sherman (the girl in the in every image who plays different characters)  she is never expressing the same idea which is what makes every photo so unique. Every image is extremely well planned and thought out in various ways such as props, costume which always conveys different emotions, thoughts and feelings. Sherman allows us to construct our own narratives for the women in the Untitled Film Stills images. She enocurages our participation our participation by suggesting, through the deliberate nature of her poses, that she is the object of someones gaze.


Cindy Sherman – Retrospective (Book)

Cindy Sherman’s book “Retrospective” is a book about Cindy Sherman’s art. One of her most famous series of art being Untitled Film Stills. Unititled Film Stills has is 69 Black and White photographs made between 1977 and 1980. Untitled Film Stills impersonates different female characters which spoke to many women who’s idea of the ideal women should be glamorous as this is what they have seen on TV. As a result of this they portray this as the type of women they want to be in the future.

This is why the media such as TV is so influential, Television can give e.g. women this stereoptype and make them want to be like this in future as well. The power of media images are used to influence young peoples identity (paticularly young people).

In Untitled Film Stills she imitates and confronts these stereotypes by posing in different stereotypical female roles. Although these images are not self-portraits. She photographs in many different locations for example her first 6 images are of the same blonde haired actress at different points of her career. In each picture Sherman depicts herself as alone as a familar but identifiable film heroine, each an illustration of a cultural representation of women. Through Untitled Film Stills viewers are able to create their own fantasies by drawing on the way women are portrayed in Hollywood movies. Popular culture has the ability to define our understandings of femininity; however these are nothing more than constructions, a series of performative acts.


It would also be used to read “A New Politics of the Body”


Kahlo and womens role in politics and the public sphere (“Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting)

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting features 140 paintings, drawings and lithographs by the couple, as well as 44 personal photographs.  The exhibition opened on Valentines day which was ironic as Diago and Frida had a very romantic relationship, involving a marraige, a divorce and then remarraige.

Both Frida and Diego were profoundly influenced by politics. Despite this shared sensibility, the influence of politics played out in drastically different ways in each artist’s work. After going through a Cubist period primarily influenced by Picasso, Rivera turned to the medium that would make him a global star of the art world: the mural. For Rivera, murals were an opportunity to move fine art out of museums and the academy and return them to the people, as well as an opportunity to make the common laborer a subject worthy of artistic attention.

Diego displayed his politics in the public sphere, whereas Kahlo explored her political sympathies in much more private, intimate ways. A prime example of this is the Soviet hammer and sickle she painted over her heart on the plaster cast that she was forced to wear after one of the numerous surgeries she underwent over the course of her life.

The exhibition pays particular attention to the physical limitations and lifelong pain Frida suffered after a horrific streetcar accident in her late teens. She is quoted as saying, “I suffered two great accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down. The other accident is Diego.”

Women’s art; Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman takes pictures of herself, and is one of the most respected photographers of the late twentieth century. These images are not self-portraits, they are used to for commentary on a variety of issues of the modern world: the role of the woman, the role of the artist and many more which is very important to women’s artists generally (not just Cindy). Through these photgraphs she has created her own individual style, raising and challenging important questions like the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art.

Sherman did not have much of an interest in art until going to college. Although she slowly became frustrated with the limitations of painting, giving up after feeling like she was copying other art. Realising this she started to make her own art, turning to photography which is what she changed to study. After graduating she started taking photographs known as Untitled Film Still where she put herself in the role of B-movie actresses. This involved her dressing up in wigs, hats and clothes to play the role of a fictional character. Cindy played characters like the housewife, prostitute, the women in distress, the women in tears, the dancer and the actress.

During the creation of her art she would complete it and then go on to make different styles of photographs such as Disasters and Fairy Tales, Film Stills, History Portraits and Sex Pictures etc. Later after not using herself as a model in her photographs she went back to doing so again in her New York gallery; “Metro Pictures”, where she tried to be The Personal Trainer, The Ex-Realtor and The Divorcee as well as various other roles.

Womens art; Frida Kahlo

Frida’s paintings are influenced by her suffering a tragic accident at the age of 18 that changed her life forever. The accident left Frida disabled, resulting in her starting to paint during her recovery. It is said that her paintings were influenced by her husband Diego Rivera.   A lot of her paintings were self-portraits showing how her life was filled with pain and suffering due to her injury. Some of her paintings are also remembered for their passion and intense vibrant colour (so they are not just about pain). Her paintings are celebrated by feminists for its strong depiction of the female experience and form.

Frida did not originally plan to become an artist. Her paintings, mostly self-portraits and still life, were deliberately naïve, and filled with the colors and forms of Mexican folk art. At 22 she married the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, 20 years her senior. Their stormy, passionate relationship survived infidelities, the pressures of careers, divorce, remarriage, Frida’s bi-sexual affairs, her poor health and her inability to have children.

During her lifetime, Frida created some 200 paintings, drawings and sketches related to her experiences in life, physical and emotional pain and her turbulent relationship with Diego. She produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits. When asked why she painted so many self-portraits, Frida replied: “Because I am so often alone….because I am the subject I know best.”

Women’s art; Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger’s interest in art using slogans and text began from a young age through a degree in art and design. Her interest in design is clearly evident in her art. Kruger takes photographs from other artists such as the image “Your body is a battleground” using an aggressive tone in her messages. Barbara raises issues about power, politics, sexuality and representation to show the (female) viewer in the struggle for power and control. Her signature text uses black letters and a red background therefore being quite distinctive and easy to identify as her art. As well as this her slogans on her photography are also quite easily recognisable asking questions related to feminism, consumerism, classism and individual autonomy and desire. She also has black and white images taken from widely recognised magazines that display ideas she is arguing about. Her art has is widely available in public places such as museums, on billboards and posters.